It’s now thirty years since the BBC first screened Yes, Prime Minister. Back then it was a mega critical and popular success - and reportedly Mrs Thatcher’s favourite television programme. Wow. Really?
This adaptation for stage, dating from 2012, is no museum piece: it’s a relevant and riveting political satire. It’s fresh, razor sharp, meticulously plotted - and more to the point, outrageously funny. It all turns on the relationship between the Prime Minister, Jim Hacker and his Cabinet Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby. The one thinks he’s in charge, the other knows who’s really the boss. It’s a classic take on servant turned master that works a treat.
It’s a big ask for amateur actors to make such iconic roles their own, but Rod Duncan (Jim Hacker) and Phil Gascoyne (Sir Humphrey) do just that. Terrific performances from the pair of them. Ross Bannister is good, too, as the PM’s Private Secretary, caught in the middle of all the wheeling and dealing. Jenn Aspinall makes for a super cool Policy Advisor, whether she’s fielding awkward questions from the BBC or engaged in “horizontal diplomacy” - finding call girls
for some embassy attaché.
John Fereday is a delight as the decidedly dodgy, politically incorrect Kumranistan Ambassador, and there’s sound support from Kevin Cheeseright as the bloke in charge of the BBC, and Joe Thompson as a BBC presenter.
It’s exceptionally well directed by Edwina Gascoyne, with spot-on ensemble playing throughout from the cast. The set’s pretty good, too. All in all, a knockout start to Tudor Players new season.
* Marion Haywood